Insights from the Travel Weekly Sustainability Summit


Earlier this year, UKinbound signed up to the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action and published a climate action plan aligned to the five pathways of the Declaration. A key part of our ongoing sustainability journey is to ensure our continued education on the topic, and earlier this month our Sustainability Communications Consultant Antonia Stratford attended the Travel Weekly Sustainability Summit. Here are some of the key insights and perspectives that Antonia gained from the event

Travel and tourism can be an incredible force for good, benefitting communities all over the world (it currently generates 10% of global GDP and growing) and it has the ability to change and transform lives but the industry knows it has some fairly big challenges around being more sustainable. Travel Weekly lined up some fantastic speakers at their recent conference on this vitally important topic who were not afraid to speak their mind!

  • The use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and therefore guilt free flying looks like it is still some way off in the future even though great progress is clearly being made on this front. One of the key issues is that sustainable aviation fuel will be hard to scale up as none is currently produced in the UK – there needs to be more investment and infrastructure. Some think that in fact it is more energy efficient to carry on using kerosene and carbon capture instead of using sustainable aviation fuel.
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning are playing their part in helping to optimise flight routes and reduce condensation trails (contrails) which contribute to global warming.
  • Tourism is in fact a relatively small part of the emissions associated with aviation with only 8% of flights globally used for leisure tourism – the rest are for business travel and trade. The key message is that visitors should be travelling less but staying longer and it is powerful for visitors to see firsthand the impact of climate change around the world helping to raise awareness once back home.
  • There has been a big shift in momentum for the maritime industry around sustainability but vessels can take around six years to manufacture and investment of around £90 million is needed at the Port of Dover to enable electrification.
  • Don’t greenwash! Be sure your claims are truthful, accurate, clear and unambiguous. Don’t omit or hide information (consider the full life cycle of the product or service) and only make fair and meaningful comparisons. Marketers really need to understand the language of sustainability.
  • Educate and inform your customers and staff about sustainability. A senior representative from a hotel chain explained that they took orange juice off the menu as it had to be imported. Initially irritating for some guests – once explained then customers understood.
  • Not having a sustainability policy in place could affect staff recruitment and retention.
  • There is a lot of confusion about certification and certification scheme amongst consumers and businesses – a globally recognised scheme would be helpful!
  • Hotels and resorts can use technology to help reduce food waste – consider also regenerative schemes such as coral and mangrove nurseries (although not really applicable to the UK).
  • Keynote speaker Bruce Poon Tip told attendees that the destination has to be more important to the customer – don’t sell amenities first such as the spa, thread count of the sheets or activities etc. The travel industry should push people out of their comfort zones and not fall into the trap of the McDonalds offer i.e. convenience, consistency and familiarity. Travel has become a one way experience and visitors should be able to lean into the opportunity of using travel to give back.
  • Bruce also talked about the international cruise industry. Some companies are doing a good job to be more sustainable but overall there is room for improvement. One of the biggest issues can be cultural disruption for example, children skip school in order to sell to tourists when they disembark at ports. The cruise industry needs to make more effort to source and buy food locally which in turn will help guests to be made more welcome at destinations.

Click here to find out more about sustainability and tourism and what UKinbound members are doing to reduce their businesses’ impact on the environment. You can also view UKinbound’s sustainability action plan by clicking here.